Ready, set, wait…

Entrepreneurs (E) don’t wait, if they did, they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs.

Waiting is for the faint of heart, the skeptics and the big corporate (C) machine. It has little place in my heart or of that of my businesses. Sure, I could plan more, test, re-test, even put it to a focus group. What for? While waiting, does the idea become stale? Do other distractions come along and sidetrack the concept? Does word leak out and the idea get snatched up by someone lacking creativity?

In effort to grow more intrapreneurial/entrepreneurial spirit within my own company and in the minds of others (should they happen to read my blog), I bring up this point to highlight the value of prototyping ideas and if necessary, failing time and time again. At VoIP Supply and within Sayers Technology Holdings, I’ve completed this prototyping process dozens of times and it has resulting in a variety of results. Not all succeeded on the first or second time and some continue to be revised to this day, but none have failed permanently, just evolved with the results. It usually revolves around some sort of product or services, presentable to a global audience via the Internet or to a select group of customers. It generally fills a void, creates a new market or a spur off of our existing market. So… What are you talking about?

OK, here is an example to compare the E-way to the C-way.

We’ve got an idea for a product of the comedic kind, far different from what we do today but well within our range of expertise and capabilities. We kick the idea around and decide we are going to do it. Bar napkin financial projections, some general ideas and order of tasks for project completion (v1), no real expense other than our time and budget set aside should it be needed. The E-way, we divvy up the tasks at 6 on a Friday, work over the weekend to build the prototype, content for the site, basic process and procedures for the landslide of orders we expect 🙂 and prepare for the week ahead. Baring any craziness, we chisel some time each day to handle project tasks no completable on the weekend. Friday comes, we cycle through it one more time and slap together the pieces, prep for launch and push the button. Ten days max, sometimes just the first weekend is enough time. The C-way… not really worth trying to get into it, it would take meetings, business planning, departmental approval, engineering would freak out and require 4-6 weeks just to plan out the project and ultimately upper management wouldn’t like the idea so the budget would be declined.

If the prototype is a success, then we can take the time to plan out version 2 more thoroughly. If it fails, then we can examine it to see if revision is best or if we chalk it up to a fun ten days.

The same goes for lots of great ideas, big and small. Something as simple as, “Hey Ben, I was thinking about this ____ and wanted to try it out. I’ll do the extra work myself, no expense upfront, upside potential is this ____ and if it doesn’t work, all we risked was ____ and a bit of my time. Can I do it?” Absolutely, full blessing, support and appreciation for taking the initiative. The C-way… No, get back to your desk and do your job!

The term that comes to mind when thinking of and discussing this topic (usually) is ‘Acceptable Loss‘. I often explain it as my college tuition and the extensive loan repayments as each attempt is an investment in the future, an opportunity to learn and improve and ultimately an accumulation of knowledge to be recycled when needed. Since I missed out on that expense, I can rack it up elsewhere and know that I received an education worth every penny. For me, most of the time, the term Acceptable Loss is reserved for investors and/or the CFO. What is the potential of this idea and how much are we (I) willing to sacrifice to a) see if it will fly and b) ensure that it flies or c) accept that it won’t fly and move on.

Somewhat stream of consciousness? Yep. Truth about coming up with an idea and being appreciated and/or rewarded for it? Also a yep. The terms to take home and incorporate into your own plans for success? Prototyping and Acceptable Loss.